there’s nothing quite like racing across the country. this is such a HUGE country.
the car above is the car i rented for this trip. originally i was going to take this trip in a big ford crown victoria i bought that was an ex-police car. i like those cars because they are roomy, still get decent gas mileage, are powerful and most importantly – on the interstate people get the hell out of your way when you come up behind them. but i sold it for a good profit and bought another. but the next one i bought i hadn’t registered yet.
and by the time all this came about it was too late to buy a reasonably priced flight. i have two cars but i thought it would be easier and more worry free to just rent something. plus i’d get much better gas mileage. but boy, did i beat the hell out of this thing. i wasn’t cruel to it or malicious. but i drove and drove and drove this poor little 4 cylinder monster. it handled, as a lot of front wheel drive cars do, like a little shopping cart. the wheels feel like they are gyrating back and forth as you plow ahead. i’d never buy one of these, but it served it’s purpose. thank you, rental car.
and as i said before, because i neglected to vote early and because i had work to do when i got home, it was imperative that i hustle home from washington dc all the way back to utah as fast as possible. on the way i went in three days, which seemed downright leisurely – although i could easily have take three more days to explore, snap photos and meditate along the way.
but the way home is different than the way there. always is. it just feels different. and having what can only amount to a deadline is downright self-cruelty.
so off we raced at 7:00 am the first day. winding through virginia, then pennsylvania and ohio in all their pretty fall colors at a steady 80 mph clip is almost therapeutic. somewhere in there, around columbus, maybe – i decided to go more south just to take the i-70 route rather than the slightly faster i-80 route. and since i didn’t have time for a stop in cincy to maybe see some long lost family i instead went through dayton and into indianapolis again. along the way there, in a state where, as i’ve said before, i see more dead deer on the side of the road than any other state i’ve ever been in – i had my own encounter with a deer.
i was in the far right lane going about 75 mph. a deer starting charging towards my lane about 50 yards ahead of me. maybe closer, because he was close enough that IF he decided to keep running i probably would have hit him or had to do some mad maneuver driving and sliding on the shoulder of the highway – though it was kind of sloped and might have been pretty awful. instead i slowed as much as i could and jerked my wheel from side to side. this must have made him somehow see me more clearly and he kind of juked a bit like a football player and then hopped back and ran in the opposite direction. he lives – for now. but with judgement like this, he probably isn’t long for this world, though he was quite large. this all happened in a split second, really. funny how fast things can change in life.
anyways i curved south from indianapolis and through indiana only stopping for gas. i was tempted, VERY tempted to stop in hammond, indiana to visit the home of another writer, talker and thinker i’ve always admired – jean shepherd. instead i just listened to some old recordings of his old radio show on my phone and barreled through missouri – finally bedding down at a hotel near the kansas border after about 16 hours of basically straight driving. no internet at the hotel so no blog post that night.
the first day, though, would feel like child’s play compared to day two. actually, both days were about the same as actual time spent driving. but having done the same sprint the day before made the 2nd day seem that much longer and harder to do. it was just a lot of driving. kansas is absolutely boring to drive through. i’m sure it’s populated with vital, interesting people who are beset with many challenges, endowed with many wisdoms and blessed with many niceties – but driving through it with no intention to stop is hard. at least it was at the start of the day.
at some point, for no real reason at all, i was pulled over by a state trooper. he said i was ‘following a semi too closely’ but i was only doing that, if i really was, because he was in my blind spot sitting there running my tag. i knew he was going to pull me over the moment i saw him. and so he did. he asked to see the license and peered all around what was in plain sight and inquired about where we were going and where we were coming from. probably just looking for drugs or something. over the next 10 miles i saw a few more people pulled over. maybe after a while they caught someone. who knows.
at some point there i found some billboards that had that same ‘obama isn’t really american’ vibe. one had his picture and said he was a ‘wannabe marxist dictator’. if felt weird to see them, especially after the nice vibe of the rally.
this type of advertising, rhetoric, approach is all that’s wrong with things in this country. you can’t just disagree with someone – they have to be somehow illegitimate. or else they are crazy. or stupid. maybe all of the above. etc.
it felt like a fresh day when i got into colorado. the clouds there always seem to be putting on a show. as i drove through denver it was getting dark. and on i drove.
about 11 pm i was nearing the utah/colorado border. i was listening to jack kerouac read poetry to steve allen’s jazz piano. he said:
“I was traveling west one time at the junction of the state line of Colorado – its arid western one, and the state line of poor Utah. I saw in the clouds huge and massed above the fearing golden desert of even fall – the Great Image of God with four fingers pointed straight at me. Through halos and rolls and gold foals that were like the existence of the gleaming spear in His right hand which sayeth ‘c’mon boy, go thou across the ground. Go moan for man. Go moan. Go groan. Go groan alone. Go roll your bones. Alone. Go thou and be little beneath my sight. Go thou and be minutest seed in the pod. Go thou go thou – die hence, and of this world report you well and truly’. anyway i wrote the book because we’re all gonna die…”
love that stuff. i first really read kerouac as i myself was ‘on the road’ fleeing my probation and various creditors at the age of 19 or so going from florida to san francisco. i read it at just the right time – and the words, the speech patterns, the meaning and depth of it and him seem hard wired into my brain.
the road at night is mysterious. at times you can be going up or downhill and you can’t tell which. if the car isn’t laboring you might never know. i know i said things, i wrote things down, i listened to stuff – but it’s all a haze. i do distinctly remember listening to talking heads ‘road to nowhere’ really loud, crusing the rolling hills of west colorado and thinking – ‘that’s so goddamn right’, but that’s about it. i stopped at a couple of stores – but neither i or the people working the register seemed real to me. i was part animal by this time. some kind of road animal heading like a laser to an unseen and seemingly ever farther away destination. i just needed fuel and a soda – something to keep me occupied while i drove so i didn’t fall asleep or worse, disappear all together. i probably overdid it this day.
you know you’ve driving too far and too long when you are in kansas and you reason that utah is ‘very close’.
i was fading fast on the windy and hilly route 191/6 in southern utah. luckily there was some intense road construction in utah near provo all the way to lehi so that kept me on my toes. this is basically my home turf, anyways.
finally got home a little aftet 2 AM. another 18 hour day though this felt so much longer than the previous day. probably BECAUSE of the previous day. no blog post then either because i forgot to pay the comcast bill so my cable was off until i paid it this morning. better i didn’t post last night, anyways. i probably would have raved too much.
6 days. 4500 miles. 72 hours of driving. 15 states. probably 30 diet coke fountain drinks. 1 rally to restore sanity and/or fear. 5 hotel rooms. 1 case of food poisoning. about 1200 photographs. 3 traffic stops. 2 traffic tickets. 2 near accidents (1 w/semi, 1 w/deer), countless ideas and meditations. i will never forget it.